Pakistan seeks end to drone attacks
Leaders assured of US support
ISLAMABAD - President Obama’s national security adviser reiterated the United States’ strong support for Pakistan in its battle with Taliban militants during talks with senior Pakistani leaders yesterday.
Islamabad, meanwhile, called for an end to US missile attacks on its soil, two days after a suspected drone strike killed 80 people in the country’s northwest.
General James Jones, the national security adviser, discussed Washington’s revamped strategy for the volatile region during talks with Pakistani military chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, and President Asif Ali Zardari during his two-day visit to Islamabad.
He stressed that the two nations face a common battle against extremists. “Terrorism is not simply the enemy of America - it is a direct and urgent threat to the Pakistani people.’’
The White House has made the region a focus of its foreign policy, and it is deploying an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan in an attempt to tame a growing Taliban insurgency.
Gilani, meanwhile, voiced concern that the beefed up US presence in Afghanistan could send a new wave of Afghan refugees across the border.
Islamabad is already grappling with its own internal refugee problem and would probably be ill-equipped to handle a new influx of people. Some 2 million Pakistanis have been forced from their homes by the army’s offensive against Taliban militants in the Swat Valley.
With the operation in Swat winding down, Pakistan’s military is gearing up for a new campaign in South Waziristan, where heavily armed tribesmen hold sway and Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding.
Suspected militant hide-outs in South Waziristan have been pounded for more than a week with bombs and artillery.
Washington strongly supports both campaigns, viewing them as a test of nuclear-armed Pakistan’s resolve to confront a growing insurgency after years of half-hearted offensives and peace deals with militants. The battle in the tribal region could also help the war in Afghanistan because the area has been used by militants to launch cross-border attacks on US and other troops.